At the Oct. 10 school board meeting, both sides of the ongoing Maple Grove and Manning debate — a question of whether neighborhood elementary school Maple Grove should feed into Manning, an option …
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At the Oct. 10 school board meeting, both sides of the ongoing Maple Grove and Manning debate — a question of whether neighborhood elementary school Maple Grove should feed into Manning, an option middle school — were in agreement on one thing. With more than 100 letters from parents and dozens of community member speeches at public hearings, few other topics have ever “generated this kind of input from the community,” said board member Brad Rupert.
The board voted Thursday to uphold Superintendent Jason Glass's decision on the Maple Grove-Manning enrollment pattern. Glass's decision, which went into effect for the 2019-2020 school year, changed the enrollment pattern to extend priority to all students whose eighth-grade siblings went to Manning. Previously, only students with sixth- or seventh-grade siblings received priority, as eighth-graders would graduate before the siblings arrived.
Meanwhile, Glass's decision did not extend priority to Maple Grove students, despite dozens of Maple Grove parents asking district and Manning leadership for the accommodation.
In 2019, 43 of 49 Maple Grove fifth-graders applied to Manning, and only 34 were accepted.
No other school has so great a percentage of fifth-graders applying to Manning; in the public hearing, some parents suggested reasons for why the Maple Grove percentage is so high. The two schools are right next-door to each other and share a special relationship, they said; Maple Grove students sometimes attend Manning math classes, and Manning students serve as teaching assistants at Maple Grove.
Parents argued that Maple Grove students that were rejected from Manning were affected far more than other fifth-graders, as they were separated from the vast majority of their peer group. Those parents argued that the policy should change to accept all Maple Grove fifth-graders who apply to Manning.
On Sept. 5, board members heard an appeal from Maple Grove parents on Glass's decision. The board scheduled its discussion and vote for the Oct. 10 meeting, at which parents again spoke on the issue.
Parent Katie Wither, whose daughter was not accepted to Manning, echoed other parents' thoughts that Maple Grove students “are unequally harmed” by Manning rejection.
“There was no option to keep my daughter with a peer group,” she said. “A system that forcefully isolates a handful of children every year is broken.”
But others say the lottery system should stay as is. Manning principal Jeena Templeton has said that, were the district to mandate an accommodation for Maple Grove, it would thwart Manning's “status as a true option.” She has advocated for Glass's decision to be upheld, saying that his choice was based on a community input process led by Manning.
Board member Amanda Stevens urged her colleagues to consider the board's role in the scenario, saying that, though the decision has upset some, Glass acted within his rights to oversee and administer enrollment practices, and policy wasn't broken.
Rupert also spoke against overturning Glass's decision.
“Manning is the closest school to several of our elementary schools, and I'm simply not willing to create the advantage for the one,” he said. “Relationships will be broken up and will need to be reformed in a new place. I don't want to belittle the difficulty of it, yet it builds resiliency.”
The board voted to uphold the decision not to prioritize Maple Grove students, with only board member Ali Lasell voting no.
“I'm thinking consistency in how we operate,” she said. Across Jeffco, the district has allowed charters and options to prioritize groups of students, whether it be students from a specific elementary school or students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, she said.
“There are other cohorts of kids that we try to keep together for different reasons. Why wouldn't we do everything we can to keep this cohort of kids together?” Lasell said. “We need to be getting creative here.”
She called on district leadership to consider the root of the problem. Many parent speakers said they felt that the neighborhood school Maple Grove actually feeds into, Everitt Middle School, did not have the resources to provide a quality education.
“We've got to go out to these communities and find out, `why are you opting out of this school?'” Lasell said. “And then, we need to provide the resources.”
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